More than 250 turn out for last Salisbury-Rowan Reads
By Hugh Fisher
CLEVELAND ó A summer-long emphasis on family reading in Rowan County has paid off, organizers say, with more kids and families than ever picking up books.
The fifth and final Salisbury-Rowan Reads event, held Wednesday at Cleveland Elementary School, drew about 250 people to enjoy free books, refreshments and games, according to Karen Wilkinson of the city of Salisbury.
The series has been part of a partnership between Rowan County government, the Rowan Public Library and local municipalities to promote reading.
“This is government doing what government should be doing,” Cleveland Mayor James Brown said.
Brown was one of the elected officials who read stories to kids and parents. Taking his place in a white rocking chair, he read from the classic storybook “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin.
Brown said he was pleased that his town had been chosen as one of the sites for Salisbury-Rowan Reads.
“We’re covering all of western Rowan,” Brown said.
And though he acknowledged that the threat of rain might keep attendance down, he said he was pleased to see the turnout.
Indeed, the event was moved from the Cleveland Town Hall to the elementary school because of the expected turnout, which did not disappoint.
A line had already formed outside the door when the event began at 5 p.m.
Inside, kids found face-painting, toys, art projects … and of course books.
The table of free books was abuzz with excitement as volunteers helped children find a volume to their liking.
Some of the kids are already big readers.
According to her grandmother, Megan Hutchinson, 6, read 28 books during the summer.
“She reads to her little sister,” said Sally Hutchinson, who brought her granddaughters Megan and Meredith, 4, to the event.
Their uncle, Chris, was also there with the family. Megan has read to him, too.
“The best thing is, for them, reading is not a chore,” Sally Hutchinson said. “It’s something they want to do.”
That’s the type of response local leaders have hoped to engender in more Rowan County kids.
“That was our plan, to focus on reading and improve the county as a whole,” Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz said.
She and three members of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners ó Tina Hall, Vice-Chairman Jon Barber and Chairman Carl Ford ó were on hand to greet parents and kids as they have been at other Salisbury-Rowan Reads events.
“The event has turned out much better than we ever would have dreamed,” Ford said.
What began early this year as a way to promote long-term educational improvements has, leaders hoped, helped spark good habits in parents and kids alike.
“This demonstrates what we believe, that reading is essential,” Barber said.
“You don’t normally hear this from elected officials,” Kluttz said.
She, Brown and eight other mayors from all of Rowan’s municipalities have taken part in the five Salisbury-Rowan Reads events.
“We feel it’s our responsibility to take it on as a county effort,” she said.
Melody Moxley of Rowan Public Library said she was happy with the turnout.
“I believe it’s really important for our kids to learn to read, not only for success in school but for success in life,” she said.